When Charleston Harbor was deepened to 45 feet from 1999-2004, people were amazed at the potential. Fast forward just a few years and advancements in technology more than doubled the capacity for container ships, driving the need for a deeper
harbor yet again.
In 2010, the Charleston District conducted a reconnaissance study to see if there was federal interest in doing a study on the feasibility of improving the harbor. The reconnaissance study found that the benefits of deepening Charleston Harbor would likely exceed the costs, so the District and SC Ports Authority began the Feasibility Phase of the Charleston Harbor Post 45 Project. This phase was meant to conclusively determine what specific plan for deepening and/or widening the harbor, if any, best balanced economic benefits to the nation, costs, and environmental impacts.
It was determined that the inner harbor would be deepened to 52 feet and the Entrance Channel to 54 feet.
The project has drawn the attention of many high-profile political figures over the years. President Barack Obama named the project in his “We Can’t Wait” initiative in 2011 and Vice President Joe Biden visited in 2013 to see the harbor for himself. The District has hosted former Gov. Nikki Haley on the S/V Evans for a personal tour and has met with Gov. Henry McMaster, Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott, and numerous members of the House of Representatives and mayors about the status of the project.
Then, the District moved into the Preconstruction Engineering and Design Phase in 2015. The project moved into the Construction Phase in 2017 with work beginning in the Charleston Harbor Entrance Channel.
The District plans to remove approximately 20 million cubic yards of material from the Entrance Channel. During this time, contracts will also be awarded for the Upper and Lower Harbor portions of the project to remove another 40 million cubic yards of material. The total project cost is planned to be approximately $549 million and take 40-76 months.
“We’re proud of the efficiency in which we’ve conducted the Post 45 project,” said Lt. Col. Jeff Palazzini, district commander. "This project is critical to our region and the nation and we’ve worked hard to get it started and moving forward.”
The new depth of Charleston Harbor will allow for neo-Panamax container ships to come in and out of the port at all times of the day. Right now, large ships are tide-restricted, causing transportation inefficiencies. The deeper harbor will benefit Charleston, South Carolina and the nation for many years to come.